With sporty style matched to an engine and handling package designed to thrill keen drivers without upsetting passengers, the Audi S5 Cabriolet occupies a rather unique niche - or at least it did until the Mercedes-AMG C 43 Cabriolet came along.
Borrowing from Audi’s tried and true recipe the Benz provides zingy turbocharged six-cylinder performance with all-wheel-drive grip and the glamour of a folding fabric roof.
Now, Audi isn’t alone in the segment, but that doesn’t mean the German automaker is ready to lay down arms. The new S5 Cabriolet, as part of the wider A5 Cabriolet range, has just touched down in Australia, bringing with it the raft of improvements that come with the A5’s latest platform and electronic architectures.
Vehicle Style: Midsized Sports Cabriolet
Price: $119,111 plus on-road costs
Engine/trans: 260kW/500Nm 2.9 litre V6 twin-turbo petrol | 8sp automatic
Fuel Economoy Claimed: 5.9 or 6.7 l/100km
As a flagship model of the cabriolet range the S5 is the largest and most powerful four-seater convertible Audi offers, sitting at the top of the A5 range.
Value has also been sharpened, with pricing for the new S5 Cabriolet starting from $119,111 plus on-road costs - almost $13,000 less than before with a stack of extra equipment into the deal.
As elegant as Audi’s latest interior design is, there’s still room for a few sporty highlights, which is why the S5 comes dressed up with sports seats featuring one-piece backrests for a more racy look, plus genuine carbon fibre trim across the dash and centre console.
The driver takes position behind a thick-rimmed flat-bottom steering wheel, with vital stats provided by Audi’s fully-digital instrument cluster with customisable display models including an S-exclusive sport display with a central tacho.
There’s space for four inside, and unlike the smaller A3 and S3 Cabriolet which includes a rear seat that can feel a little better suited to occasional use, the more spacious S5 is a better fit if the rear seats will be called into frequent use - including an extra 18mm of legroom compared to the last generation.
The fully lined and insulated roof looks properly svelte, either up or down, and takes just 15 seconds to stow away via a one-touch button, or 18 seconds to replace at speeds of up to 50 km/h.
Standard features like front and rear seat heating and three-zone climate control ensure the comfort of all passengers in all conditions, but unlike the A5 Cabriolet the S5 lacks standard neck-level heating, requiring a move back to standard sports seats (with adjustable headrests) to gain access to neck heating.
Audi’s large and clear infotainment system packs in features like voice and handwriting recognition, satellite navigation, Apple CarPlay, premium audio, plus online services including Google search and maps.
ON THE ROAD
All three S5 variants (coupe, Sportback, and Cabriolet) share the same engine - a 2.9-litre twin-turbo petrol V6 that generates 260kW of power and 500Nm of torque and utilise all-wheel-drive via an eight-speed torque convertor automatic.
That’s enough grunt to push from 0-100 km/h in 5.1 seconds, which is fast enough to trouble most hairdos… Or at least it would be if the cabin wasn’t so serene with the top down.
Despite its sporty nature the S5 Cabriolet can be totally docile. Dial up comfort mode for the suspension and the ride is rarely troubled by rough roads, there’s an overall firmness to the tune but it’s never harsh or stiff-jointed.
For those after a sportier experience dynamic mode delivers firmer suspension resulting in resolutely level cornering, a more responsive throttle, and a touch more weight through the steering and its here that the S5 Cabriolet will generate the biggest smiles from drivers and passengers alike.
Over some fantastically technical roads around McLaren Vale in South Australia, the S5 Cabriolet demonstrated that the loss of a roof hasn’t ruined the balance or precision of the other members of the S5 range with only the most severe road corrugations upsetting the composure.
As well as a stiffer platform (boasting 40 percent greater rigidity than its predecessor) the new S5 Cabriolet has managed to shed 40kg of weight. Not enough to detect by the seat of the pants, but any improvement is a welcome one.
For all of its driver engagement the S5 still isn’t as connected to the road as the BMW 4 Series, and in its Comfort or drive mode the throttle feels more timid than you’d expect from an engine with the S5’s performance credentials.
There’s also a lack of emotive soundtrack. The twin-turbo V6 lacks any discernible turbo character, and unlike the howling Mercedes-Benz C 43 the S5 is too quiet, even with the roof down, with a hint of upshift grumble accompanying each gear change but not much else.
Picture yourself on a warm sunny day, skirting Australia’s glorious coastlines, enjoying the fresh ocean breeze with nothing but blue sky above you. Not a bad image, is it?
Now imagine being able to tackle that same sinewy stretch of tarmac in something than that can demolish corners with connected grip and a powerful surge of mid-range torque and take three passengers along for the ride.
Yes, the S5 Cabriolet is guilty of going through an identity crisis. No one has been game to tell Audi they’ve built a polite midsizer that also happens to accelerate like a sportscar, and soak up the sun like a roadster.
While Audi may not be alone in offering a sharpened, grippy drop-top any more, they certainly know a thing or two about the formula and haven’t put a foot wrong with this latest generation.
MORE: 2018 Audi A5 Cabriolet First Drive Review
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